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GILBERT RYLES THE CONCEPT OF MIND (1949)

BACKGROUND
Empiricism and Science: Ryle is a typical empiricist philosopher. He wants to explain things such as minds in terms of things we can actually experience (and possibly actually measure). Traditional psychology: Psychologists traditionally analysed the mind by introspection. Descartes described the structure of the mind by examining his own consciousnesses, and even Humes bundle account of personal identity is based on introspection. But this is not public evidence, and cannot be directly verified by others. Freuds speculative interpretation of the subconscious didnt seem very scientific either. Behaviourism: Early in this century J.B.Watson proposed behaviourism, as a method of study and an analysis of mind. The method is to only study measurable public data (behaviour); the analysis will (it is claimed) show that all consciousness can be analysed down into behaviour (an extreme reductivist approach to the mind). The most extreme proposal is the possibility that thought could be analysed into movements of the vocal chords. Logical Positivism: Ryle followed A.J.Ayer in developing the Verification Principle in the 1930s. Meaningful sentences must be tautologies, or empirically verifiable. Ryle proposed that verification might be by any observer, and not merely by the speaker, which made the principle less strict, while still making it strictly empirical. Dualism: Descartes and others had championed the dualist account of the mind. Descartes arguments are that the mind is unextended, necessary when thinking, private, unified, and thinking. Other Minds: The view that the mind is essentially private leads to the Other Minds problem, which is that there is therefore no way of being sure that other minds exist. I may be surrounded by a bunch of unconscious robots, so any attempt to say anything meaningful (let alone scientific!) about other peoples minds is doomed. Solipsism: Dualism seems to point to the logical possibility of solipsism. If the mind is essentially private, it may be completely cut off from reality in a world of illusion and fantasy (possibly created by a Demon, but possibly even self-created, leaving the mind totally alone).

ATTACK ON CARTESIAN DUALISM


Ghost in the machine: Ryle simply accused Descartes of having misconceived the facts. Descartes has imagined that there is a ghost inside us which works a merely mechanical body. He has not grasped that words like mind and consciousness label groups of behaviour, not actual things. Category Mistakes: - He labels Descartes error as a category mistake, which is a failure of reasoning when a predicate is applied to something logically inappropriate. His three examples are thinking that a university is a thing other than its colleges, or an army division is not just a group of soldiers, or team spirit is something more than just the behaviour of a sports team. Double Causation: Ryle points out that if we have a mind and a body, then every human action will have two causes, one the result of the physical laws of the brain, the other the product of purely mental laws. (This point leads to the later theory of Anomalous Monism).

KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF


Episodes: Current consciousness might be analysed into what Ryle calls episodes of behaviour, which are events which actually occurred, and so can be empirically observed. However, a lot of what we think is in consciousness (such as beliefs and knowledge) never actually leads to any observable behaviour, so the theory must be extended. Dispositions: We describe people in terms of dispositions to behave in certain ways, meaning that they will do certain things if a certain situation arises. So their mental state of belief, knowledge etc. can be analysed as potential behaviour, which would be observable if it occurred, and is potentially predictable. Cigarette smoker: Ryles example of a disposition is cigarette-smoking. To actually smoke a cigarette is an episode. But when we say that someone is a cigarette smoker, we dont mean anything about their consciousness, but merely that they have a disposition to buy cigarettes, or accept them when offered. Knowledge: A person knows something if they have a disposition to be right about it when the situation arises. Belief: A person believes something if they have a disposition to behave in a certain way when the situation arises.

THE SELF AND SELF-AWARENESS


Self: the concept of a self is a delusion created by the use of the index word I, which is falsely presumed to have a reference. Self-knowledge: this consists of levels of higher and lower order behaviour. Higher levels are studied utterances about oneself.

ADVANTAGES
Consciousness is now held to be totally public; I know my own mind through my public behaviour, as well as other peoples The problems of other minds and solipsism, which arose from the belief in mental privacy, disappear. We can also give a better account of how our ordinary language works. Free will turns out to be an illusion, caused by the logical impossibility of examining the source of my own mental events.

OBJECTION DEALT WITH


The fact that people can pretend to think or feel certain things when they dont is not a problem, he says, because such acting or fraud is detectable through details of behaviour, and it is parasitic on normal situations where mental life is behaviour.

PROBLEMS
Behaviour without consciousness: 'super-acting' and lying (though Ryle thinks he can answer that), twitches, Freudian slips, blind sight Consciousness without behaviour: 'superspartans', physical paralysis, transient impressions, intermediate steps in reasoning, pure qualia Intentionality: in addition to the deep privacy of the mind, pure intentionality seems to be a mental feature which lacks behaviour Qualia: nothing about a pattern of behaviour gives even a glimmering of an explanation of what it is like to experience things Correlation failure: one mental state may have many behaviours, and one behaviour might be a sign of many mental states Description: it seems impossible to explain behaviour without referring to mental states (is your hand up, in a school lesson?).

LATER DEVELOPMENTS
Functionalism proposes that consciousness is not the behaviour of the person, but the behaviour of the brain. Thoughts are not actually physical, but are a group of causally related physical events. The new theory enters the black box at the centre of behaviour, which may not be directly observable at the moment. Functionalism retains the behaviourist view that the mind is an abstract concept, not a physical object.